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Leading Sales Teams in the Time of Recession

According to economic indicators, the recession is going to arrive at the end of 2023 or even the beginning of 2024, so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for it. Some even nicknamed it the “slowcession” due to this gap. You’re educating yourself right now and you'll be able to implement the changes soon enough.

Bojan Blazevski

February 21, 2023
leading sales teams

Judging by previous experiences, it’s pretty clear what follows after the US inflation rate of 6.5% — a recession. It probably won’t hit in the first months of 2023, but economic experts agree its arrival is inevitable. So, that leaves you with some time to prepare your sales teams for the upcoming economic landscape. In fact, with our techniques and a bit of luck, you may even use the recession to your advantage!

Take your time and don’t panic

Our first piece of advice seems easier said than done, but it’s crucial and doable. According to economic indicators, the recession is going to arrive at the end of 2023 or even the beginning of 2024, so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for it. Some even nicknamed it the “slowcession” due to this gap. 

Even in the unlikely event that it hits the market sooner, there are no indicators about the 2008 scenario repeating itself. If anything, this recession should be a mild one. 

In addition, every recession is temporary and they normally last about ten months or so. Therefore, there’s no reason to lose hope. 

Last but not least, a reminder that you’ve already taken the first step to prepare for the upcoming recession. You’re educating yourself right now and you’ll be able to implement the changes soon enough.

Redefine your market

You defined your target customers some time ago, but the recession may wreak havoc with people’s priorities and spending habits. So you’ll just have to do the market research all over again.

The problem is that personal values may change drastically in times of recession. For instance, one may be used to Sunday brunches, buying certain supplements, purchasing Fortnite skins, and going on regular shopping sprees to the mall. Still, the dire economic atmosphere makes them inclined to think of that as overspending, and they’ll refrain from such services. 

Recession makes consumers scared, but you shouldn’t feel intimidated! Instead, create a new customer profile for the upcoming period and plan how you can satisfy their rising needs.

Refrain from offering huge discounts

Do desperate times call for desperate measures? Not this time.

Your clients might be in fight or flight mode, but you definitely shouldn’t be! While a recession is a period in which you can expect the competition to lower their prices, this is hardly the best practice to follow.

Such discounts usually have no other justification but the fact it’s recession time. In other words, a company that suddenly offers its products well below their regular price sends a clear, dangerous message: our products aren’t that valuable at all, considering we can sell them at this price and still make money. 

Instead of consumers’ desire, you’d be raising their suspicion regarding the product’s value. And, since in times of recession people spend their money only on what they think is the quality (and therefore essential), using big discounts can only backfire on you.

Invest in training your staff

If you’re looking for advice on how to lead your sales team in recession time, you may find someone saying you should lower the frequency of staff training. However, we strongly disagree with this one. 

You could possibly decrease the number of team building events whose purpose is just for the employees to connect, but not educate themselves. Since the recession is going to make a massive change in your clients’ personal values, your sales team must be well-prepared. Analyze the upcoming market changes. Organize training sessions to teach your sellers how to best present your product or services to “new” recession customers.

Encourage quick-hit incentives

Your sellers will appreciate the new training, particularly after seeing its benefits. Yet, what may excite them even more in uncertain times are quick-hit incentives. Your sales team may be concerned about the future. But with the proper training and a promised immediate reward for hitting new realistic targets, they may even outperform themselves. 

Provided you prepare for recession right, you can expect your sellers to enjoy this period since they’ll be hitting targets regardless of the economic atmosphere. 

Decide to fire or to hire

If you eliminate that panicky feeling, you’ll be ready to commit to these tough decisions. It’s not just about hiring or firing people. It’s also about whether or not you should retain your current SaaS or invest in a new one. 

Let’s discuss these one at a time:

  • If you’re expecting the revenue figures to drop, one of the easiest and most obvious decisions would be to let go of the sellers. If the business is getting smaller, then the number of employees could go down too, right? Yet, before making any “logical” rash decisions, you should first evaluate your current sellers. Also, pay close attention to their performances at the beginning of the recession, not just the period before it. Since the circumstances are much different than the usual ones, some sellers may underperform while others will fully shine. If you need to make any cuts, wait for the recession period to begin to see who’s been able to adapt to it.
  • Evaluating your sellers is very important. You need to recognize and appreciate the talent, or else your competitors will steal them from you! Nothing like an economic crisis to show off the true value of a great seller. Just like your customers are yearning for stability, so are your biggest opponents. Be aware that your top-performing sellers will be getting lots of appealing offers in this period, so you should, in advance, think of ways to make them stay.
  • Just as your competitors will search for outstanding talent, so should you! The talent pool is even richer with all the outsourcing options, so keep your options open and check what’s out there.
  • Reevaluating the equipment goes hand in hand with reevaluating your staff. Check out the list of all the tech tools in your enablement stack. Do you really need all of them, or perhaps you could end some of the SaaS tools’ subscriptions? Surprisingly, these can add up to nearly $500 per month if you’ve overseen some simple online banking services, while maintaining your old software can end up costing you dearly should it fail to match the latest cybersecurity requirements.

Increase the communication

Last but not least, remember to use all those good-old leadership techniques to increase communication between your teams, sellers and clients, and between you and your sellers. Your work atmosphere should be such that any seller has no qualms about asking you for an opinion. Listen to their propositions, make decisions, and lead your team toward success.

Recession is daunting for all businesses, especially the ones dealing with sales. Yet, with careful preparation in the following months, you’re going to stand a much fairer chance against the economic changes and maybe even turn them to your advantage.  

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